CHAPTER X. AGRICULTURE, INDUSTRY, AND TRADE

Flour-making and lumbering were the two industries which made most consistent progress in the colony. Flour-mills were established both in and near Quebec at an early date, and in course of time there were scores of them scattered throughout the colony, most of them built and operated as banal mills by the seigneurs. The majority were windmills after the Dutch fashion, but some were water-driven. On the whole, they were not very efficient and turned out flour of such indifferent grade that the bakers of Quebec complained loudly on more than one occasion. In response to a request from the intendant, the King sent out some fanning-mills which were distributed to various seigneuries, but even this benefaction did not seem to make any great improvement in the quality of the product. Yet in some years the colony had flour of sufficiently good quality for export, and sent small cargoes both to France and to the French West Indies.

The sawing of lumber was carried on in various parts of the colony, particularly at Malbaie and at Baie St. Paul. Beam-timbers, planks, staves, and shingles were made in large quantities both for use in the colony and for export to France, where the timbers and planks were in demand at the royal shipyards. Wherever lands were granted by the Crown, a provision was inserted in the title-deed reserving all oak timber and all pine of various species suitable for mastings. Though such timber was not to be cut without official permission, the people did not always respect this reservation. Yet the quantity of timber shipped to France was very large, and next to furs it formed the leading item in the cargoes of outgoing ships. For staves there was a good market at Quebec where barrels were being made for the packing of salted fish and eels.

The various handicrafts or small industries, such as blacksmithing, cabinet-making, pottery, brick-making, were regulated quite as strictly in Canada as in France. The artisans of the towns were organized intojures or guilds, and elected a master for each trade. These masters were responsible to the civil authorities for the proper quality of the work done and for the observance of all the regulations which were promulgated by the intendant or the council from time to time.

This relative proficiency in home industry accounts in part for the tardy progress of the colony in the matter of large industrial establishments. But there were other handicaps. For one thing, the Paris authorities were not anxious to see the colony become industrially self-sustaining. Colbert in his earliest instructions to Talon wrote as though this were the royal policy, but no other minister ever hinted at such a desire. Rather it was thought best that the colony should confine itself to the production of raw materials, leaving it to France to supply manufactured wares in return. The mercantilist doctrine that a colony existed for the benefit of the mother country was gospel at Fontainebleau. Even Montcalm, a man of liberal inclinations, expressed this idea with undiminished vigor in a day when its evil results must have been apparent to the naked eye. "Let us beware," he wrote, "how we allow the establishment of industries in Canada or she will become proud and mutinous like the English colonies. So long as France is a nursery to Canada, let not the Canadians be allowed to trade but kept to their laborious life and military services."

The exclusion of the Huguenots from Canada was another industrial misfortune. A few Huguenot artisans came to Quebec from Rochelle at an early date, and had they been welcomed, more would soon have followed. But they were promptly deported. From an economic standpoint this was an unfortunate policy. The Huguenots were resourceful workmen, skilled in many trades. They would have supplied the colony with a vigorous and enterprising stock. But the interests of orthodoxy in religion were paramount with the authorities, and they kept from Canada the one class of settlers which most desired to come. Many of those same Huguenots went to England, and every student of economic history knows how greatly they contributed to the upbuilding of England's later supremacy in the textile and related industries.

If we turn to the field of commerce, the spirit of restriction appears as prominently as in the domain of industry. The Company of One Hundred Associates, during its thirty years of control, allowed no one to proceed to Quebec except on its own vessels, and nothing could be imported except through its storehouses. Its successor, the Company of the West Indies, which dominated colonial commerce from 1664 to 1669, was not a whit more liberal. Even under the system of royal government, the consistent keynotes of commercial policy were regulation, paternalism, and monopoly.

This is in no sense surprising. Spain had first given to the world this policy of commercial constraint and the great enrichment of the Spanish monarchy was everywhere held to be its outcome. France, by reason of her similar political and administrative system, found it easy to drift into the wake of the Spanish example. The official classes in England and Holland would fain have had these countries do likewise, but private initiative and enterprise proved too strong in the end. As for New France, there were spells during which the grip of the trading monopolies relaxed, but these lucid intervals were never very long. When the Company of the West Indies became bankrupt in 1669, the trade between New France and Old was ostensibly thrown open to the traders of both countries, and for the moment this freedom gave Colbert and his Canadian apostle, Talon, an opportunity to carry out their ideas of commercial upbuilding.